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Your baby skincare questions answered....

 

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Skincare in the early days

graphic I’ve heard that it’s best to bathe my baby in water only. Is this correct?

graphic When my baby was bathed in hospital, I was not asked whether I wanted to use bubbles. Is this normal practice?

graphic Is it true that vernix (this is the sticky white substance that covers your baby’s skin in the womb) should be left to absorb naturally?

graphic My baby was overdue and his skin was dry and cracked. What should I do to protect it?

graphic What is the safest way to care for my newborn baby’s skin?

graphic How should I care for my baby's cord and why has the cord clamp not been removed?

graphic I have heard that skin-to-skin contact is good for my baby and that baby massage is also beneficial. Can you tell me more about this?

graphic I received lots of free samples in the maternity hospital. Does this mean they are safe to use on my newborn baby?

graphic Are there any ranges of baby products that you would recommend?

 

 

Keeping babies and children safe in the sun and during hot weather

For years we have been told to cover up and slap on the highest factor sun-protection cream. But what about the increased risks of vitamin D deficiency for some groups of babies who don't get enough exposure to the sun?

graphic How can I protect my baby in the sun?

graphic What is the SUN SMART code?


graphic What clothes do you recommend after my baby is one year old?

graphic When choosing sun protection creams what should I look out for?

graphic How can I help to keep my baby cool in the summer months?

graphic Swaddling babies appears to be fashionable again now – what are the benefits of swaddling and are there any potential drawbacks? How can parents prevent their swaddled babies from overheating?

 

 

General tips for laundry and dry skin

graphic I have heard that skin-to-skin contact is good for my baby and that baby massage is also beneficial. Can you tell me more about this?

graphic There is a family history of allergies in my family. What oils should I avoid?

graphic My baby is already showing signs of eczema, what do you suggest?

graphic I received lots of free samples in the maternity hospital. Does this mean they are safe to use on my newborn baby?

graphic Where can I get more information on this subject?

graphic Are there any ranges of baby products that you would recommend?

graphic Should I wash all my baby clothes before their first wear?

graphic When buying clothes and bedding for my baby what fabrics should I be looking for?

painting
Sharon at the Louvre, Paris – always on the lookout for a breastfeeder!

J20
Grandad cuddle

granny
Granny cuddle

J17
Graduate in November 2005

sharon and ashley
Sharon with Ashley – the original front cover for the book

baby in bath
Baby bath time fun!

 

 


 

Q. I’ve heard that it’s best to bathe my baby in water only. Is this correct?

At birth, the top layer of your baby’s skin is very thin and absorbent. This means it is more sensitive to damage from germs, chemicals and water loss. Over the first month (longer in premature infants) your baby’s skin matures and develops its own natural protective barrier or microbiome. It appears that microbial bacteria picked up from the mother during birth and from the mother’s skin, help to build and support the baby’s immune system. This takes time therefore babies should not washed too soon after birth.

Remember that anything placed on, in or around your baby has the potential to harm. If you follow this advice you will give your baby the best possible start in life.

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Q. When my baby was bathed in hospital, I was not asked whether I wanted to use bubbles. Is this normal practice?

The National Institute for Heath and Clinical Excellence (NICE) Postnatal Care Guidelines say that 'cleansing agents should not be added to a baby's bath water nor should lotions or medicated wipes be used. The only cleansing agent suggested, where it is needed, is a mild non perfumed soap. [2006]'. Most maternity units should follow these guidelines but sadly some may still use unsuitable baby bath products. Make sure you tell staff if you don't want such products to be used on your baby. You could mention this on your Birth Plan.
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Q. Is it true that vernix (this is the sticky white substance that covers your baby’s skin in the womb) should always be left to absorb naturally?

Yes. This is nature's own moisturiser. The vernix protects the baby's skin while in the womb. It is more common in premature babies and is usually only seen in term infants under the arms and in the creases. If left, it will gradually absorb and soften the skin, avoiding the need for products and reducing water loss.
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Q. My baby was overdue and his skin was dry and cracked. What should I do to protect it?

If your baby is overdue, their skin may well be dry and cracked. This is to be expected, as the protective vernix has all been absorbed. Don’t be tempted to use any creams or lotions as this may do more harm than good. The top layer of your baby’s skin will peel off over the next few days, leaving perfect skin underneath. Continue bathing your baby with plain water for at least the first month.
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Q. What is the safest way to care for my newborn baby’s skin?

Remember that everything coming into contact with your baby’s skin has the potential to harm. Try to follow these simple rules for the safest possible skincare:

 

  • It is very important to wash your hands thoroughly before and after carrying out any baby care.
  • Your baby’s first bath should be done with plain water but only once baby's temperature has stabilised. This will help to protect the delicate skin while it is vulnerable to germs, chemicals and water loss. 
  • Daily baths can dry the skin. It's enough for baby to have 2 or 3 baths a week.

  • Wash cloths should be avoided as they can be harsh. Hand washing your baby, cotton wool (organic is better) or a natural sponge is gentler.
  • A baby comb can be used to gently remove any debris from thick hair after delivery. Please bring a baby comb into hospital with you.
  • It is best to leave the delicate area around the eyes untouched. If it does become sticky, please notify a member of staff and they will advise you.
  • The ears and nose should also be left alone and cotton buds should be avoided.
  • Vernix (this is the sticky white substance that covers your baby’s skin in the womb) should always be left to absorb naturally.
  • Continue bathing your baby with plain water for at least the first month before gradually introducing baby products. By this time the skin’s natural barrier will have developed. These products should be free from sulphates (SLS and SLES), parabens, phthalates, artificial colours and perfumes.
  • Baby wipes should not be used for the first month. After this, try to use wipes that are free from alcohol, parabens, phthalates, artificial colours and perfumes.
  • It is safer to file nails with a soft nail file rather than use scissors, which can leave sharp edges. For baby nails that have started to come away, you can gently them off.
  • Shampoo is not necessary when your baby is under a year old. Once you have introduced baby bath products, simply rinse your baby’s hair in the bath water solution. Make sure any shampoo you use is sulphate free (SLS and SLES).You may like to use a thin layer of barrier cream on the nappy area. Choose a cream that is free from preservatives, colours, perfumes, antiseptics, and is clinically proven to be effective in the treatment of nappy rash.Always wash your hands carefully before using a nappy balm. This will help reduce bacteria passing from your fingers to the product, extend the balm’s shelf life and avoid microbial contamination.
  • Washing baby's bottom: Girls should be cleaned from front to back (to avoid passing germs into their vagina). Boys should be cleaned carefully around their testicles and penis.

  • You should avoid using all baby skincare products for at least the first month of life, but it's okay to use barrier balms from birth. You may like to use a thin layer of barrier balm on the nappy area, although it's not necessary to do this at every nappy change. The ideal preparation should be free from preservatives, colours, perfumes, antiseptics, and clinically proven to be effective treatment for nappy rash.
  • If after a few weeks you decide to use baby skincare products always read the label very carefully. Do not use products that contain ingredients your baby is sensitive to. A product should be tested on a small area of skin when used for the first time, even if it claims to be natural or organic. This is to make sure your baby does not suffer any reaction.
  • When washing your baby’s clothes and bedding remember not to overload the washing machine – this is to ensure thorough rinsing. If you use a fabric conditioner make sure it is mild and free from colours and strong perfumes.
  • Cloth nappies are as efficient as disposable ones and do not present a higher risk of nappy rash.

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Q. How should I care for my baby’s cord and why has the cord clamp not been removed?

Cord care for the healthy term baby: Keep the area around the cord clean and dry. After the first bath in plain water, pat dry with a clean towel. Fold the nappy back at each change until the cord falls off. In the first few days, it is advisable to only top’n’tail your baby to allow the cord to separate naturally. Use wet cotton wool to clean the area only if it is soiled - otherwise leave it alone. There is no need to use antiseptic wipes or powders. The cord clamp may or may not be removed, depending on hospital policy. If the cord or surrounding area becomes red or smelly, tell a member of staff. This advice is based on the World Health Organization (WHO) recommendations published in 1999.
Cord care for the sick or premature baby: This may differ slightly, due to the increased risk of infection. Antiseptic solutions or powders may be used for the first few days. Otherwise cord care should be the same as other babies. Staff in the neonatal unit will advise you.
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Q. I have heard that skin-to-skin contact is good for my baby and that baby massage is also beneficial. Can you tell me more about this?

The benefits of skin-to-skin contact cannot be overstated. It should be strongly encouraged from birth. As well as promoting successful breastfeeding, skin-to-skin contact stabilises your baby’s heart rate and temperature. Baby massage follows on naturally from this and is now widely practised. It is best to avoid using petroleum based oils and oils with perfumes. If there is a history of nut allergies in your immediate family you should also avoid nut-based oils.
Even some vegetable oils are not ideal for delicate baby skin. For example, olive oil is high in oleic acid - unfortunately this can have the same effect on the skin as detergents, stripping away the delicate barrier that protects baby's skin. This can dry baby's skin and make it more prone to eczema. Being more absorbent, dry skin allows potentially damaging chemicals to penetrate the epidermis more easily.
It is safer to use oils that are lower in oleic acid and higher in linoleic acid, for example sunflower, sesame seed, evening primrose, or pomegranate oil - organic is always best.

Ask a qualified baby massage therapist for advice on suitable oils. To find a therapist near you, visit www.iaim.org.uk
Remember not to use any products on broken skin.
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Q. I received lots of free samples in the maternity hospital. Does this mean they are safe to use on my newborn baby?

You may still receive free samples, whilst in the maternity unit or shortly afterwards. These samples are provided by companies as free gifts to new mothers but this does not mean they are suitable for use on newborn skin. There is no evidence to prove a need for such products on newborn skin so I would still recommend you do not introduce the baby skincare products until your baby is at least one month old. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask a member of staff at your local hospital or your community midwife/health visitor, once home.
This information is taken from my Babycare – back to basics™ leaflet which gives the most up-to-date information on baby skincare. Email me ( This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ) if you would like a copy of this leaflet.
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Q. Are there any ranges of baby products that you would recommend?

Once your baby is at least one month old small amounts of mild products that are free from colours, alcohol and strong perfumes can be introduced. The following brands are worthy of a mention: Jackson Reece baby wipes, Weleda Baby, Organic Babies and Organic Children by Green People, Natracare, Nature Babycare, Nothing Nasty, NomNom Skincare, Shea Mooti and Lavera. Read all about TIPS Award winning products here...

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Q. How can I protect my baby in  the sun?

  •  Keep babies under one year old out of direct sunlight.
  • From one year onwards use hats, t-shirts, parasols and UV pods while at the beach to avoid over-exposure, as UV rays are also reflected from sand and water. It’s best to keep all young children out of the sun between 11am and 3pm.
  • UV suits are a good idea for toddlers when they are playing on the beach, but not for long periods because a certain amount of sun exposure is essential for normal good health in order to produce vitamin D.
  • Make sure the hats have a wide brim and that they do not have seams or labels that can irritate delicate skin.
  • Use waterproof sun-block if in the water, and limit exposure to sea water or swimming pools for no more than a few minutes at a time as prolonged exposure to chlorinated or salty water can dry out the skin.
  • Use emollient based moisturisers as an after-sun treatment as this will give the skin’s natural barrier some protection - pure aloe vera is ideal.
  • Great care must be taken when choosing sun protection creams, as most contain strong ingredients that are unsuitable for young babies.
  • Make sure you offer your baby extra fluids in the hot weather. Breastfed babies will feed more often and do not need any other fluids, but bottle-fed babies may need water between formula feeds. If you have any queries about feeding ask your midwife, health visitor or lactation consultant.
  • Keep clothing and bed linen to a minimum by using light layers of sheets or blankets made from natural fibres.

 

 

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Q. What is the SUN SMART code?

For older children remember to be SUN SMART, as recommended by the UK's national skin cancer prevention campaign:

Spend time in the shade between 11am and 3pm

Make sure you never burn

Aim to cover up with a T-shirt, hat and sunglasses

Remember to take extra care with children

Then use factor 15+ sunscreen (preferably SPF 25+)

For more information on sun protection for your children visit Cancer Research UK website

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    Q. What clothes do you recommend after my baby is one year old?

     

    Some modern fabrics have been designed to make clothing suitable for wearing in the sun. They give almost total protection from the sun. Clothes made from such fabrics reduce the need for sun-protection creams that may irritate delicate skin.
    The material is lightweight and breathable so it is not too hot, but does protect against the harmful UV rays. Nonetheless these suits should not be used for long periods (stick to 11am – 3pm when UV rays are strongest) because a certain amount of sun exposure is essential for normal good health in order to produce vitamin D.
     

    Great websites who cater for UV kids clothing, aqua shoes, sunshades and sun protection include: Kids-Kaper Childrenswear (www.kids-kaper.co.uk), equatorsun (www.equatorsun.com), Up to Five Children's Clothing (www.uptofive.com).

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    Q. When choosing sun protection creams what should I look out for?

    A sun protection factor above 25+ is recommended for children. This should ideally be waterproof if the child is in and out of the pool or the sea. Some brands need to be reapplied every couple of hours, whereas others will last for longer between applications. It is important to put the right amount of sun cream on your child. Remember that using sun cream will not allow your child to stay in the sun for many hours at a time.
    As with other baby skincare products a sun cream should always be tested on a small area of skin when used for the first time, even if it claims to be natural or organic.
    Following exposure to the sun you can use a simple emollient based moisturiser as an after-sun treatment. This will give the natural barrier some protection and also reduce the chances of excessive water loss from your baby’s skin.
    There are few ranges of sun protection creams that do not contain potentially sensitising ingredients. Here are a few examples of brands worth considering:

    • Badger SPF30 for face and body - unscented sunscreen from www.badgerbalm.com
    • Badger SPF15 Lip Balm - safe for children of all ages and is a 100% natural, chemical-free, mineral sunblock
    • Green People Organic Children SPF25 children’s sun lotion from www.greenpeople.co.uk
    • Green People Oy! Face the sun Organic Young  SPF 15 – ideal for teenagers and suitable for all skin types, even acne-prone and sensitive skin

    Have a look at the TIPS Award winning baby lotions - these are all free from Sodium Lauryl Sulphate (SLS), Sodium Laureth Sulphate (SLES), propylene glycol, parabens or phathates.

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    Q. How can I help to keep my baby cool in the summer months?

    Overheating can be very dangerous to a new baby as their temperature regulation system is still immature and they cannot cool themselves. Remember never to cover a baby’s head when they are indoors, even if you think a room may be cold. It is a good idea to keep your baby's room at a constant 18-20°C all year round. To achieve this in the summer months it may be necessary to have a gentle fan (not directly blowing on your baby) and leave a window open so fresh air can circulate. Remember to keep bed linen to a minimum by using light layers of sheets or blankets made from natural fibres. 

    Alternatively you could use one of the new baby sleeping bags designed especially to keep your baby at an even temperature (different tog ratings are available for summer and winter). Follow the manufacturer's recommended advice on what sizes, layers of clothing and tog ratings to use. Make sure the sleeping bag is not too big to avoid a baby slipping down into the bag. Buy a nursery thermometer to help keep your room a constant 18-20°C. If it is really hot your baby may only need to wear a vest. Do not use: a baby sheepskin, duvets or pillows if your baby is under a year old. Avoid using hot water bottles or electric blankets in your baby’s bed. Breastfed babies will feed more often and do not need any other fluids but bottle-fed babies may need water between formula feeds. If you have any queries about feeding ask your midwife, health visitor or lactation consultant.

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    Q. Swaddling babies appears to be fashionable again now – what are the benefits of swaddling and are there any potential drawbacks? How can parents prevent their swaddled babies from overheating?

    A new baby likes to feel secure as this reminds them of their time in the womb. Swaddling is a good way to recreate this environment. Remember to use a thin flannelette sheet (you can cut a sheet into four squares and sew the edges to make your own swaddling blankets) folded gently around your baby. Never cover their head as this could lead to overheating. Do not wrap too tightly and remember to lay your baby on their back at the foot of the bed. This stops them wriggling under covers and getting too hot.

    Babies' legs should not be swaddled in a straight down position as this can cause hip dislocation problems. Instead babies should be swaddled with their arms snugly against their bodies – perhaps with their fists near their mouths so they can self-soothe – but with their legs able to settle in a natural position to allow for optimal hip joint development. Take care to use fabrics that are natural and breathable.

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    Q. I have heard that skin-to-skin contact is good for my baby and that baby massage is also beneficial. Can you tell me more about this?

    Skin-to-skin contact (SSC) simply means placing a newborn baby prone on the chest of its mother, father, sibling or care. In fact anyone can enjoy SSC. The benefits of SSC cannot be overstated and this practice should be positively encouraged from birth. As well as promoting successful breastfeeding, SSC stabilises a baby’s heart rate and temperature. Baby massage follows on naturally from this and is now widely practiced.
    Skin-to-skin contact:
    - leads to physiological stability within minutes of initiation
    - at birth greatly helps the initiation of breastfeeding
    - is ideal for fostering good mother/baby relationships
    - is ideal for fostering good father/baby relationships
    - is ideal for fostering good sibling/baby relationships
    - is a non-invasive therapy, which can be carried out anywhere
    - is a cost-effective treatment for low-risk infants
    - encourages the colonisation of friendly bacteria
    - reduces the likelihood of secondary infection to the neonate
    - leads to fewer complications in the preterm infant
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    Q. There is a family history of allergies in my family. What oils should I avoid?

    It is advisable to avoid nut oils, petroleum based oils, or oils with perfumes, if there is any history of allergies in your immediate family.

    Even some vegetable oils are not ideal for delicate baby skin. For example, olive oil is high in oleic acid - unfortunately this can have the same effect on the skin as detergents, stripping away the delicate barrier that protects baby's skin. This can dry baby's skin and make it more prone to eczema. Being more absorbent, dry skin allows potentially damaging chemicals to penetrate the epidermis more easily.
    It is safer to use oils that are lower in oleic acid and higher in linoleic acid, for example sunflower, sesame seed, evening primrose, or pomegranate oil - organic is always best.

    Choose a properly qualified massage therapist for your baby and ask for their advice on suitable oils. To find a therapist near you visit www.iaim.org.uk. Remember not to use any products on broken skin.
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    Q. My baby is already showing signs of eczema, what do you suggest?

    Atopic eczema is closely associated with asthma, hay fever and related allergies and is the commonest form seen. It can be very itchy which can lead to the skin becoming inflamed or even infected. Try to keep nails short and clean and use mittens at night to stop excessive scratching.
    The treatments are varied and include creams and soap substitutes, steroid creams and sometimes antihistamines, if the cause is an allergy. Diet can sometimes play a part so with babies it is important to breastfeed for as long as possible and ideally exclusively for the first six months.
    Check the baby products you are using and go back to plain water for a few days. Then use mild emollient based products as they provide some protection and can be used as a soap substitute in the bath.
    Choose 100% cotton or similar natural fabrics that are breathable and will not allow your baby to get too hot or too cold. Dress your baby in layers so you can add or remove clothes to keep them the right temperature.
    Only bath your baby every 2 or 3 days. Us no products for the first month of life then introduce simple products that are free from sulphates (SLS & SLES), parabens and pthalates. Read the labels and avoid highly perfumed brands.
    Wash all clothes and bedding before use. Do not overload your washing machine, use a mild detergent and if you use a fabric conditioner chose one that is free from colours and strong perfumes. There is a great website with all the information you need at www.eczema.org
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    Q. I received lots of free samples in the maternity hospital. Does this mean they are safe to use on my newborn baby?

    You may still receive free samples, while in the maternity unit or shortly afterwards. These samples are provided by companies as free gifts to new mothers but this does not mean they are suitable for use on newborn skin. There is no evidence to prove a need for such products on newborn skin so I would still recommend you do not introduce the baby skincare products until your baby is at least one month old. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask a member of staff at your local hospital or your community midwife/health visitor, once home.
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    Q. Where can I get more information about baby skincare?

    Our Babycare – back to basics™ leaflet which gives the most up-to-date information on baby skincare is now in its 9th edition. If you would like a copy of this leaflet please This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
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    Q. Are there any ranges of baby products that you would recommend?

    Once your baby is at least one month old small amounts of mild products that are free from colours, alcohol and strong perfumes can be introduced (although they are by no means necessary). The following brands are worthy of a mention: Jackson Reece baby wipes, Halos n Horns, Weleda Baby, Green Baby, Ocean Pure, SOS Barefoot Doctor, Nothing Nasty, Aromababy, Organic babies and Children, Natracare, BOrganic skincare, Organic Monkey, Nature Babycare, Nothing Nasty, MamaBabyBliss, and Lavera.
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    Q. Should I wash all my baby clothes before their first wear?

    Yes - it is advisable to wash all new baby clothes and bedding. Do not overload your washing machine, use a mild detergent and if you use a fabric conditioner chose one that is mild and free from colours and strong perfumes.
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    Q. When buying clothes and bedding for my baby what fabrics should I be looking for?

    It is best to opt for natural, breathable fabrics as these will allow your baby’s skin to stay warm in winter and cool in summer. 100% cotton (brushed or fleece are softer), silk, wool (100% merino wool is softest) or a bamboo mix which is very soft and more absorbent when used as a towel.
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